EV Story: A Tale By Three Owners

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1San Diego is on the leading edge of PEV adoption. According to a recent poll, it is America’s fifth greenest car city. The Center for Sustainable Energy wrote that 20% of the electric car purchases in California take place in San Diego. I was especially intrigued by PEV owners who have solar panels.

Colby Trudeau

That led me to three people in the San Diego area.  Peder Norby and Bill von Novak are among the 40% of PEV owners who have solar panels on their roof. Both of them said their solar power system provides enough energy for their domestic and transportation needs. Norby says that, due to the seasonal fluctuations in power, he pays San Diego Gas & Electric $500 a year. Colby Trudeau would like to have a solar power system, but lives in an apartment. Norby’s solar array starts feeding the grid around 8 am every morning. Von Novak’s system also produces more than his household needs, but now the surplus energy goes into his Nissan Leaf.

He is the only one of the three who still owns a “gas car” – if a Toyota Prius hybrid can still be called a “gas car” – has been riding his electric bicycle to work for the past fifteen years. Von Novak’s wife usually has the EV, which is their principal means of transportation for shopping, to the dentist and virtually everything but long trips.

Both he and Trudeau work at Qualcomm, where there are 20 EV chargers. Though he obtains 90% of his power at home, Von Novak sometimes charges at work or a commercial charger. He estimates there may be a hundred people “driving EV’s to work, from Leaf owners to people who have built their own.”

Trudeau also uses the charging stations at Qualcomm (and at his parents home, or the solar powered charging station at Oceanside).

Von Novak has been working at Qualcomm for the past 20 years and says that, ”overall, it is a great place to work. Qualcomm is always starting environmental projects, like replacing disposable water bottles with Qualcomm-provided durable bottles and water filters/coolers.  We recycle most materials.  Building Q uses a time-shifted thermal storage system for air conditioning, and the Morehouse campus has a natural gas powered powerplant.  It is used for:

  •  Power during the summer during times of high demand (we feed back to the grid)
  • Backup power when power goes outAir conditioning via an absorption chiller (uses waste heat to air condition the buildings)
  •  We just got voted #11 on the list of “Best Companies to Work For” by Fortune magazine.”

Von Novak’s commitment to more environmentally friendly energy sources goes back for decades. He obtained his first solar panels in 1987. He and his wife used used the greywater,  from their  shower and washing machine, to water the citrus plants in a previous residence. Now they are living off Penasquitos Canyon, where she “does the composting and the worm bins.  She’s been bugging me for months to put in a rainwater collection system.” They purchased their Nissan Leaf last Spring.

Norby, Van Novak and Trudeau all use PEVs as their principal means of transportation  which, according to the California Plug-in Electric Vehicle Owner Survey, is true of 89% of PEV owners.

Colby Trudeau
Colby Trudeau

Trudeau believes electric vehicles are much more feasible than people realize, “It has been estimated that 80% of the cars in the US could be electric without having to build a single power plant if everyone charged at night off peak hours. That is how much excess capacity we have at night. Meanwhile, utilities struggle to provide us with sufficient power during the day. Solar helps combat the shortage of electricity we experience during the day. The EV+PV combination is the exact opposite load of the grid, which helps level the grid and avoid brownouts and blackouts and can help keep energy costs low by avoiding large spikes in demand.”

All Image credits – courtesy Colby Trudeau

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